A young boy with glasses

Eye care service in special schools is highly commended in end of year report

As the school year ends, the SeeAbility special schools eye care team has been gathering evidence on the impact that eye care makes for children with learning disabilities. Malvi Patel, SeeAbility’s clinical lead and optometrist takes us through the results:
It’s my first year of leading the eye care work in special schools for SeeAbility and I’m so proud of our dedicated team.
Using a new NHS contract to provide sight tests, glasses (including a spare pair) and a user-friendly report on the test results, we’ve delivered care to over 2000 children in the London area, and as part of this we recently asked parents what they felt about our service. 

Nearly 200 parents responded and the figures hopefully speak for themselves!

  • 92% of parents are happy with the eye care service*
  • 93% would recommend our service to other parents*
  • 4 in 5 parents now understand more about what their child can see*
  • 28% of parents had already seen a difference in their child’s learning and behaviour as a result of wearing glasses*

(*Of those that did not strongly agree or agree, none disagreed)
When asked to describe the service in three words, the following words kept cropping up: excellent, friendly, amazing, helpful, reliable, essential, thorough, convenient, understanding, caring, professional, accessible, efficient. 
So many of the parents we see say this is exactly the sort of service that makes their child’s life that bit easier, with accessing eye care being one less challenge to overcome. 
That’s confirmed by the data – 46% of the children we and other NHS contractors are seeing have never had a sight test before. And it’s revealing that close to half of children have been found to have a sight problem. 
Even serious sight problems can be easily overlooked. Official records would indicate only 2% of children have a registerable visual impairment whereas research in special schools has found this could actually be up to a third of children. 
Having glasses is so often the answer to this unmet need.

Presenting this evidence to policymakers

At the moment there are big proposals for children with special educational needs and disabilities to make better use of optical services in the community with the appointment of a new NHS national clinical director for eye care. 
The eye care service in special schools that NHS England has committed to is only starting to get established nationally but the outcomes are already showing the fantastic impact it will have. Hospital eye clinics are already discharging their patients where there is a service, knowing that their routine eye care needs can now be met in school.
If this new NHS service reaches every special school and eye care and vision needs are properly reflected in the SEND system, tens of thousands of children could benefit from everyone understanding what they can see, and be supported with the glasses they need, providing lasting outcomes.
We’re making our views known to Department of Education’s consultation ending today, and you can read more in this paper
Here's a quote from a parent that really shows the impact the service is having:

"I am so happy that you are seeing our children in school, the whole experience was so much calmer. I have been struggling to get my son's eyes tested for a few years. He has autism and used to attend hospital but found the whole experience very stressful and traumatic (particularly the eyedrops). The lady we saw was so patient and because he was in his school environment he was calm too. I cannot praise this enough."